Bye Kerry Temple

Author: Jason Kelly ’95

Cover of the Spring 2024 issue of Notre Dame Magazine featuring a photo of retiring University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, walking on campus.

Once upon a time, I worked at another university publication where the arrival of a new Notre Dame Magazine was an event. Among the staff there, only I had a connection to Notre Dame, but each edition created a buzz.

One included an essay threaded with ideas that only Kerry Temple ’74 could have woven together. He’s in a doctor’s office with his pregnant wife, Jessica. She is undergoing a risky procedure to drain fluid from the amniotic sac through a needle inserted in her abdomen in hopes of averting a fatal complication. In the ultrasound image, Kerry sees a baby reach for the foreign object:

I watch the hand as it moves eerily toward the needle, and I see it grasp the needle’s tip, close its tiny fingers onto this needle that has entered his dark, heart-pulsing, liquidy belly of a world.

And as the hand grabs the needle, the fluid stops, there is no flow.

The doctor and I look at each other. He chuckles and says, “Come on now, let go,” and he jiggles the needle, moves it around as Jessica winces. And the boy lets go. And the fluid flows once more, emptying into the bottle.

A lesser writer would have lapsed into mawkishness, but Kerry holds back. He introduces that scene late in the story and captures in simple words — and the silences between them — that catch in the throat when a threatening cloud casts a shadow over our lives. My colleagues and
I started calling the virtue of restraint in storytelling “hand-on-the-needle writing.”

In these pages, longtime colleagues and friends describe myriad ways Kerry has moved them as he retires after almost three decades as editor. He already received a leather-bound collection of these tributes, but if everyone kept the secret, he will be surprised — and probably a little annoyed — to find many of them here.

During a season of transition on campus, Kerry would direct your attention to leadership changes of even greater institutional consequence. Among his last acts as editor was interviewing R. Scott Appleby ’78, founding dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs, who is stepping down after guiding the school through its first decade. Jack Swarbrick ’76 passed the athletics department baton to Pete Bevacqua ’93 in March, and Rev. Robert A. Dowd ’87 assumes the University presidency June 1 when Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, ’76, ’78M.A., steps down after 19 years.

Jenkins’ tenure has been tumultuous at times, reflecting a divisive era in the country and the Catholic Church. He also has overseen immense growth at Notre Dame — on campus, in the local community and around the world.

Our cover story, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Bruce Dold, takes the measure of Jenkins’ presidency — the changes ushered in, the challenges faced. Through it all, the contemplative philosopher who advocates for civility in public discourse focused on a fundamental mission, outlined in his 2005 inaugural address, to preserve the University’s distinctive character.

Kerry felt a similar responsibility: to maintain the thoughtful engagement with diverse ideas that distinguishes Notre Dame Magazine, extending the reach of bracing conversations that enrich campus life. To inform, enlighten and delight — and, judging from letters to the editor, inspire spirited disagreement — through discussions of important issues and personal stories of the far-flung, clamorous family that shares Notre Dame in common.

His name no longer appears on this page, but Kerry Temple’s imprint remains. Literally, in stories he conceived and assigned before his retirement, and figuratively, in the animating spirit of the magazine he edited.

Jason Kelly is editor of this magazine.